My Group Tour Trepidations
I’m going to cut right to the point–I hate group tours. I’ve stared pityingly at mobs of people rushing through Paris following tour guides holding up umbrellas. I’ve driven away from scenic overlooks from Nevada to Nova Scotia when tour busses approached. I spent three days in Bermuda with only a transportation ticket, my camera, and my bathing suit. And, with the exception of a 16-passenger van I took to get from Bath to Stonehenge, I’ve never been on a group tour. If I don’t like to be near a group tour, I certainly wouldn’t want to be on one–right?
But my upcoming trip presents a bit of a problem. It seems as though I may be forced to do some tours. A lot of tours. Mainly tours. In groups. And not just walking tours. Tours that use busses. While I am ok with walking tours–and actually have loved two of the three culinary walking tours I’ve done so far–bus tours are what I’m referring to when I profess my hatred for group tours. With a bus tour, everywhere you go, you bring a line with you. And I hate lines.
Thus, as I look at my tour-filled options for each cruise port I will be visiting, every cell in my body is screaming No! Don’t do it! Use the public transportation system, rent a car, do anything else! I’ve been on the cruise line website several times a day for the past few days. I’ve clicked on shore excursions and then clicked my browser shut before hitting ‘book now’. I just can’t make myself sign up–and pay–for experiences that, to me, are the opposite of what travel should be. Joyful. Freeing. Independent.
Yet everyone I know or talk to online says the same thing–it’s not a good idea to explore on your own in the port cities I am visiting. Of particular concern is my burning desire to visit Tulum from Cozumel. I can find no one anywhere that thinks doing this on your own is a good idea–and I’ve been reading forum posts that go back almost a decade. But how scary can it really be? Yes, you need to take a ferry and a bus to get there. Yes, I would really need to make sure that I got back to the ship in time. And yes, I suppose there is the faint possibility that I’d be left behind by the ship if I did it on my own and something happened to the bus or ferry I was on. But the operative word there must be ‘faint’, right? How many people are seriously left in Mexico because of some freak ferry mishap? I’m going to go ahead and not Google that question, because I’m afraid of what the answer might be.
I’m also torn about Jamaica and Grand Cayman. It seems that the tours offered–either by the cruise line or through private companies–pack a whole lot into a short amount of time. Which could be good–after all, when am I ever going to return to these islands? But it could also be bad–like our 45-minute visit to Stonehenge that barely gave me enough time to stand in line at the restroom, nevermind fully appreciate the World Heritage Site properly. Do I want quantity or quality? Safety or solitude? Accessibility or adventure?
What do you think? Should I tour on my own, or give in to the ease and safety of cruise line sponsored excursions? And mom, if you’re reading this, I already know which one you would pick for me. Don’t worry–no matter which one I choose, I will stay away from the edge of cliffs and the mouths of alligators. Promise.